Artist: Gigi Allen
I wait in my dirty clothes hamper, the plastic tic tac toe weaving squished and squashed under my legs. The window was the only place in the house where I could see out to the street — and not be seen back. I would wait, I would wish, but I would die first before I let him know I was waiting. I pull on the yellow sun kissed blinds with my still baby-dimpled hand and wait. No car. No calls on my phone. Nothing but the sound of the cicadas.
In my porch is a big tree with a big circle of dirt underneath, a circle where all the kids in the neighborhood would come and play in the swing. Their dads pushing the yellow rope to make the frisbee-looking-thing their kids sit on go higher and higher.
Always asking to go higher.
No more kids with their dads.
The stars aren’t there either and the sun goes down, but the moon’s late. And so is he.
I drop the blinds and rest my brown hair –hair thick like my daddy’s– on the window. The blinds are ruined and so’s my mood as November turns into December and my phone becomes my enemy.
I write never-sent-emails. Compose always-deleted-texts. I want him to call first. I need him to call first. My Father should call first.
But when he does, after a whole month of waiting, the text isn’t sorry. It isn’t excuses. It isn’t reasons. It isn’t even I love you.
“Maybe we can schedule something for Christmas?”
And my fingers begin typing back. . .
I put up for 16 years of my life with this man. I forgave time and time again for the months of no calls. I shed countless tears as I stare out of my window, standing in the clothes hamper, waiting for whatever friend’s car he’d borrowed to come get me. I can forgive, but forgetting . . . that’s the hardest part.
Every single woman I was brought to since I was seven years is etched in my memory. Every feeling, tear, TV show and forgotten meal are seared into my heart. I’m not sure if I can even forgive now. He’s my father… my protector… my superhero. But now he’s the sting in every tear. The air for every sob. The hurt in every moment of disappointment. The reason for every single appointment . . .
The man shuffles the cards, he deals them out, smiles. I smile. I don’t show him how inside I feel numb and alone. My whole sophomore year I sit in the box of Room 1300 and play Uno. We talk about my friends. Talk about my newspaper team. Everything good. I don’t utter a word or shed a tear to the man with the smile until the day I get the text.
Maybe we can schedule something for Christmas?…
“How could he?! He didn’t say a reason, he didn’t give me a response. He didn’t give me an excuse. . . I wasn’t worth an excuse. He promised to get me for Thanksgiving and he didn’t even call till Christmas!”
The man with the smile nods and talks to me.
He talks to me till he tells me I have walls built up to separate myself from everyone in my life.
He talks to me as he tells me I have trouble telling people what’s wrong because my trust issues make me believe they’ll tell me my feelings are wrong.
He talks to me as he tells me I have separation anxiety and will be prone to depression whenever I feel distance and loss of someone close to me.
He talks to me as he tells me near the end of that year he’ll be leaving.
“I’ll work with your parents to get you a therapist. I advise you do not stop therapy.”
The insurance doesn’t work out though. No more talking.
My father doesn’t talk. About anything, anything that makes him look bad. If I go to parties with my mom to celebrate my father’s work, he still introduces my mother, his ex-wife, as his current wife.
I think to myself, if only I could talk to someone, if only I could find someone who would talk to me, maybe I wouldn’t be so angry.
I look at my phone and type a text. The words “schedule” and “Christmas” floating in white every single time I close my eyes.
“I’m never talking to you again. Goodbye.”
But on my 16th birthday– April 25th– I finally cave to the looks my mother gives me. She is trying to be the middle person, who is on everyone’s side. I allow him go to dinner with my mother, my little half sister and brother and me.
He shows up 20 minutes late, our drinks full of half melted ice.
After he takes me to Half price books, my one happy place, something about the smell of books. He buys me a birthday gift, a $40 dollar signed copy of P.C Cast’s House of Night. Immediately when the bag touches my hand… he asks for something.
“So am I forgiven?” His smile care free, like the answer is already assumed, his face holding no worries, like none of this affects him.
“I guess..” I don’t want to have to give the book back. I don’t want to have to admit that my father has bribed me.
At home I get upset, I rant to mom but she tells me that I can’t be angry anymore.
“It’s filling you like acid, you already forgave him, you can’t be angry.”
Can’t be angry. Can’t be upset. Can’t be hurt. I can’t feel anymore. . . I have to move on. I have to let him get away with hurting me again.
I close my phone and breathe, trying to accept this fate and this past and this father. . . as they are. My reality, and my past. Something that will be with me, in my heart and on my shoulders to carry.